Released: October 8, 2008
Charts: #1 / 84,000 copies sold
Although “hands” is my favourite Kumi song (a lot of that due to nostalgia), I still regard TABOO as her magnum opus. This thumping upbeat electronic pop tune is absolutely amazing and it’s one of her most infectious songs. The verses are pretty cool and there are some really clever hooks here to keep the song interesting before we get into the stellar chorus. It’s nothing particularly explosive, but its slithering melody is just so intoxicating. Even through the autotune, Kumi sounds amazing. The B-side (Always) is a light R&B pop tune, which is an interesting contrast to the more intense A-side. It’s a cute song. It’s definitely more filler than quality, but it’s still a solid tune and I like its gentle flow.
42. stay with me
Released: December 24, 2008
Charts: #1 / 65,000 copies sold
c/w: Winter Bell
A winter ballad is expected at this time and stay with me delivers on that front. It’s a little different from her more intense ballads and has a more uplifting quality to it. I actually really enjoy the sweeping strings and the gradual build up into the chorus. The chorus is a little flat at times for me, but there are some pretty points in the melody. The orchestral arrangement is also quite stunning. For me, it feels more like an ending theme to a movie or something from Disney. The B-side (Winter Bell) is a cute upbeat pop tune. It definitely has some sweeter vocals to it, which work with the bouncy, holiday-like arrangement.
43. It’s all Love!
Released: March 31, 2009
Charts: #1 / 99,000 copies sold
c/w: faraway / Tenbin ~Tsuyogari na Watashi x Yowagari na Kimi~ (天秤 ~強がりな私×弱がりな君~)
It’s all Love! is a collaboration between Kumi and her sister, misono. It’s a pop/rock tune, which is more in tune with misono’s sound, although Kumi has played around with similar sounds. It’s a pretty fun song, although I’m not a huge fan of the random adlibs that pop up throughout the song and make the delivery sloppy. My favourite part is the chorus where the ladies play off of each other in an intensely paced fashion. The whole song can be a bit messy at times, but it’s still fun. The first B-side (faraway) is a solo track for Kumi and it’s a pretty ballad. Although she has released a number of ballads, this is actually a pretty solid one and one of her most beautiful with its sparkly backing and softer vocals. misono’s B-side (Tenbin ~Tsuyogari na Watashi x Yowagari na Kimi~) comes with a long title and a more acoustic sound. It wouldn’t be that bad of a song if misono’s vocals weren’t so horribly exeggerated. If she sang like she did when she was in day after tomorrow, she could have made this work.
44. 3 SPLASH
Released: July 8, 2009
Charts: #2 / 91,000 copies sold
3 SPLASH is a multiple A-side that features three summery tracks. The first is Lick me♥. Despite having a rather dirty sounding title, the song has a fun pop/rock arrangement that fits the bright and exciting season to a tee. I wasn’t expecting to like this song as much as I do. Kumi’s voice fits nicely with the energetic chorus and this is easily one of her better pop/rock offerings. However, the strongest song on the single is ECSTASY for me. This returns us to the electronic pop sound, but with some rock elements and a more aggressive beat. I wasn’t really interested in this song at first, but it has become one of my favourites from Kumi because it has a more unpredictable structure. The verses are rockier, but that swirling chorus is where the song really gets its edge. There are some cool hooks here. This is just an amazing track! Continuing the pop/rock influence, we get Hashire!, which is probably the single’s most rock heavy tune. It’s a pretty cool tune. I’m not a big fan of the verses as they just come off as rather forgettable for me. However, that chorus is pretty catchy and has a powerful arrangement that really gets me into the song. The melody is pretty fun as well and Kumi sounds great!
Rating: 8/10 (Lick me), 10/10 (ECSTASY), 7/10 (Hashire!)
45. Alive / Physical thing
Released: September 16, 2009
Charts: #1 / 44,000 copies sold
This double A-side single opens with Alive, a kind of ballad that Kumi hasn’t really attempted at before. It has a very slow build-up and brings a more calming effect. It’s arrangement is also quite pretty with its focus on the flute and strings. It feels more like a theme song to a movie. It’s quite beautiful, but also quite boring. It’s a nice song, but I can’t sit through the whole thing. The second A-side is a cover of a Nosheen song. Physical thing is a powerful dance/pop tune that feels more in line with the sound of “ECSTASY”. It’s pretty fun and edgy, but feels more like a weaker version with its lacking hooks and more monotonous delivery. It’s decent, but Kumi has definitely done a better job before.
Rating: 5/10 (Alive), 6/10 (Physical thing)
46. Can We Go Back
Released:January 20, 2010
Charts: #2 / 36,000 copies sold
Can We Go Back is a cover of a Kelly Clarkson song and has a heavier rock tone. Unfortunately, this is one of those times where it just doesn’t connect with me. It has a powerful arrangement that helps to heighten that aggressive chorus, but it feels like something is missing. While I think Kumi does sound great here, I feel like she sounds better suited for dance or pop better. I actually much prefer the B-side (Good☆day), which is a sparkling synthed up pop song. It’s arrangement is more towards the cuter side of things, but I like it’s fast-paced melody. It’s much catchier and the instrumental break is fun and bright.
47. Gossip Candy
Released: July 7, 2010
Charts: #4 / 84,000 copies sold
c/w: For you
Gossip Candy is another multiple A-side single. The first song is Lollipop, which feels like Kumi’s first upbeat urban single in a while. I actually love this song because it has some fun lyrics and a catchy melody that make it exciting to sing along to. The sexy verses are great as well and the pre-chorus features a short, funky rap section. However, that chorus is where all the magic happens. The lyrics (‘I dodge a bullet bullet’) work so nicely with the melodic hooks to bring a goofy, yet seductive mix. The next two songs have the same melodies, but different arrangements. Inside Fishbowl opens things up with a pop/rock tune. It has a slamming backing that mixes oddly with its almost psychedelic vocal performance. It’s a catchy tune, although I’m not entirely sure if I’m a fan of it. I just wish it made things even crazier. The second of the songs is Outside Fishbowl, which continues the pop/rock sound but changes some things up. The arrangement is a little harder hitting and the vocals aren’t edited in such a weird way. I think I prefer this version a little more, although I can’t say I’m still much of a fan. It is catchy though. The B-side (For you) is a ballad, which I can say I expected. At this point, her ballads have started becoming a little bland and I feel like this is one of her worst. Kumi’s attempt at trying to make her vocals “cuter” just doesn’t work here.
Rating: 10/10 (Lollipop), 5/10 (Inside Fishbowl), 6/10 (Outside Fishbowl)
48. Suki de, Suki de, Suki de / Anata Dake ga (好きで、好きで、好きで。 / あなただけが)
Released: September 22, 2010
Charts: #2 / 84,000 copies sold
It’s expected that Kumi would come back next with a ballad single. Suki de, Suki de, Suki de is a bit more on her classical ballad side of things, but it’s still a pretty tune. I do like how the chorus is sung as it does bring a little variety to the sound. At first, it comes off rather run-of-the-mill and doesn’t have much that stands out, however, I really love how the chorus opens up with its grandiose arrangement. It really propels the song forward and gives it a great punch that the boring verses lack. Anata Dake ga is easily the superior ballad and one of her strongest ballads ever. We get something a little more R&B that has a gentler delivery, but it’s softer sound is actually really charming. It’s quite reminiscent of the songs released around this time, but it is still able to stand out with its stunning melody. This is probably the last Kumi song I really connected with though.
Rating: 6/10 (Suki de, Suki de, Suki de), 9/10 (Anata Dake ga)
49. POP DIVA
Released: February 2, 2011
Charts: #4 / 39,000 copies sold
c/w: Black Candy
While on paper, POP DIVA sounds like it will be a great electronic dance/pop tune in line with “TABOO” and “ECSTASY”, it’s just too messy. The verses are pretty fun and I even like the edgy pre-chorus. Unfortunately, the chant-like chorus is just disappointing and I don’t find it that appealing. It feels more suited to be used for a pop/rock song and the arrangement feels more suited for something a little more melodic. The whole song is a bit too messy for my tastes. I’m not sure if I enjoy the B-side (Black Candy) that much either. While it has a stronger rock vibe, it just isn’t that interesting to me either. It’s a bit noisy and not particularly catchy.
50. 4 TIMES
Released: August 17, 2011
Charts: #6 / 74,000 copies sold
Bringing yet another multiple A-side single, we get her 50th one, 4 TIMES. Opening things up first is Poppin’ love cocktail, which is a fast-paced pop/rock tune. I’m not a big fan of this song because it doesn’t have a really catchy melody. It has a lot of attitude to it and reminds me of “Hashire!” from a while back, but lacks that extra edge to really make it stand out. It’s just not for me. Luckily, IN THE AIR is up next and easily the single’s highlight song. It has a lighter pop sound with some R&B influences in the arrangement. It’s quite a pretty song, but it still has a lot of power to it, especially in the chorus with its introduction of the guitar. I also like that Kumi’s vocal delivery is also on the softer side of things for the majority of the song, which fits in nicely with the prettier elements in the song. The song has a very end-of-summer sound to it. V.I.P. is supposed to be the more “urban” track of the single, but I just don’t like it that much. It tries to do too much, but doesn’t really execute any of its sections with much focus. The vocal performance is also really odd and there are some weird points where Kumi tries to sound too sexy or fun and it just comes off a little awkward. The arrangement is also a little all over the place. Luckily, KO-SO-KO-SO is much better. It has an 80’s synthpop vibe to it, but it still brings the sex appeal with Kumi’s voice. She sounds much more relaxed here and it’s way nicer than the over-the-top delivery of the last song. While I love the verses, I do wish the chorus pushed a little harder. It has a catchy melody, but the arrangement just comes off a little flat for me. Still, a funky tune.
Rating: 4/10 (Poppin’ love cocktail), 8/10 (IN THE AIR), 4/10 (V.I.P.), 7/10 (KO-SO-KO-SO)